I was so nervous at having the chance to see and hopefully meet Brian Setzer again that I forgot all about it and I'm now able to write a review for our magazine. It came to me while sitting on the coach to Zurich, Switzerland. I'd booked the coach a couple of weeks earlier, not knowing if any of my friends would join me. Thank you to my Swiss Rockabilly and double bass player friend, Alex, who bought the ticket for me. Unfortunately, he had to cancel his visit to meet me at the gig as he had to work unexpectedly. Well, after nearly 4 hours on the coach I arrived in Zurich on a wonderfully hot and sunny day. I thought it can only get better if the start of the day is like this. I found my hotel with help from people on the street and a map. It still took me around 30 minutes to walk as I walked in circles.
My hotel was lovely. I was told by the guy on the reception that no one wants to stay in this room because a tram drives next to the window but I thought it was fabulous. Never seen anything like it. I could watch the tram from my window. It felt a bit like a mix of New York and the U.K, just crazy. If I ever come back I want this room again, number 18, it was perfect for me. One of my friends did finally make it and after a two hour walk through Zurich I picked him up at the same coach station I'd arrived at earlier. Because he wasn't very good at directions, I was able to show him the way to his hotel. Without me he'd never have found it. That's why men need a woman!
After getting ready to see the gig, we had about a 40 minute walk to the Volkshaus Zurich, which was on the opposite side of the city to our hotels and it was extremely hot too, but we managed it. Once we arrived (Brian used to play here in the 80's/90's when he was with the Stray Cats) we got something to eat and drink. Earlier I'd seen the backstage door and headed off to see if I could find Brian. As there was no security there, I was lucky and got into his dressing room where I could see the clothes he'd wear later. The lady who was leaving his towels was very nice and I was able to leave my card for him. So with a big grin on my face I went back to my friend who was already eating his burger. I was chuffed to bits I'd just been in Brian's dressing room but a shame he wasn't in it!
At 7pm the doors opened and we wondered if there'd be a support band or would Brian start straight away. What kind of songs would he play, Stray Cats songs or a mix of everything? Well, we'd find out soon. Despite that I'd seen videos of him and his Rockabilly Riots and all the songs were Stray Cats songs, so we hoped he might do the same here. I managed to be in the first row right in front of Brian which surprised me as I was at the back of the queue. I've no idea how I managed that. Anyway, looking at the stage we could see there would be a support band and I wondered what kind of music they'd play and where they came from. Normally you'd always be glad when the support band has finished as everyone's just waiting for the main band. The band came on stage wearing fabulous outfits, guys in red 40's trousers with white shirts, and singer Mary Ann in an absolutely lovely black jumpsuit with golden guitars and notes on it.
They were called Miss Mary Ann & The Ragtime Wranglers and came from the Netherlands. I thought they might be really cool and it didn't take me long to realise they were a brilliant Rockin' band. I watched Huey Moor, the double bass player, as I always do! It was easy to know his name as it was printed on his bass. On guitar was Joe Sixpackk, a great player and virtuoso who played cool and relaxing riffs. Each band member was unique in the way they played, sang and their looks. Difficult to reach this level but they had it all. Miss Mary Ann's voice was terrific and her smile and fun attitude was impossible not to love. It made me want to join in clapping my hands to the rhythm of their beat. Because I hadn't heard of them before, I didn't know any of their songs but I loved listening to them and wiggling my hips. I really loved them and couldn't believe they only played for 30 minutes. Now this was a really cool support band and they played such a short set. I'm sure everyone in the hall would have loved it if they'd stayed on stage for another 30 minutes! I could have easily listened to them for another hour and was more than sad they finished so soon. They were all class musicians. I loved their choice of songs and I definitely intend to get their CD. I'm not normally lost for words when watching support bands, but Miss Mary Ann & The Ragtime Wranglers were more than amazing.
Now on to the mighty Brian Setzer. The stage was quickly cleared and Brian and his Rockabilly Riot entered the stage and immediately owned it. It must be difficult as a musician playing next to Brian as he was the star of the evening. But they kept their distance playing in the background most of the time. Brian was in his element entertaining everyone who came to see him. Next to me was a guitarist, not even a Rockabilly fan who just wanted to see and learn from Brian's knowledge and watched him as he played his Gretsch. On the other side were some Punks and I wondered what they were doing there. It just goes to show it doesn't matter what your background is, Brian's music and guitar skills keep the fans coming together wherever they're from. I didn't write down the songs he played as it wasn't possible. But no one was disappointed as he played mainly Stray Cats crackers and classics. He didn't take many breaks between songs, once 'Rumble In Brighton' finished, the next, 'Stray Cat Strut' followed.
I'd never seen so many mobile phones in the air (it wasn't like this in the 80's when the Stray Cats started their amazing world tour). Fans were clapping and singing instead of taking pictures at a gig and I have to include myself there. But despite that I watched a lot who had fun and jumped about. Some so much, it was a bit annoying as they bumped into everyone in front of them. Brian looked smart in his black & white striped suit (the one I'd seen in his dressing room) and cowboy boots. He's always smart and looks younger than ever. He was 58 a few weeks ago and has barely any marks on his face. During the set he introduced his band, Mark W. Winchester, (bass) Kevin McKendree, (piano) and Noah Levy, (drums). They gave us a brilliant Rockabilly show bringing all the classic Stray Cats hits from the 80's to the present day. Brian rocked as he did 30 years ago. It was a pleasure to watch.
Of course he wouldn't just leave after their performance, he came back to play a couple of encores. We'd never let him walk away. Twice he returned. This was a perfect performance from Mr. Setzer and his Rockabilly Riot. Once the gig was finished I went backstage to meet him as he didn't know I was there. I saw him on a regular basis in his early days, went shopping with him on other occasions and hung out with him in the bar. But that was many years ago. I've known him for about 30 years now I suppose but didn't know if he'd still remember me as the last time I met him, was probably about 10 years ago. Well, he was just signing autographs and it was difficult to get close enough to get myself recognised but I shouted his name and he saw me. He asked me straight away "How long since we've seen each other?" and I replied it was probably many years. I was chuffed to bits he'd recognised me after such a long time. He didn't know I was coming to Switzerland as the last time I'd seen him was in Manchester. He then said "Come on let me hug you", which he did and I was in heaven!! The fans around him just looked puzzled and wondered where he knew me from. Brian was interested in chatting but we only had a few minutes before he had to leave and go back to the tour bus.
Right then I decided to go to Leipzig by train the next day. It was a snap decision because everything was running so smoothly but before I left I had a brief chat with drummer Noah as he was just getting ready to leave. It was nice talking to him and I felt he was a nice down to earth bloke. I planned to take the first train to Leipzig at 6am but because I had no train ticket, no ticket for the gig and no hotel, I wanted to get the first train I could. So I had to get up at 4.30am to leave the hotel at 5am and arrive at the train station at 5.30am. Luckily I was able to buy my ticket straight away and off I went. Off to Leipzig, happy to see Brian again and hoping Miss Mary Ann & The Ragtime Wranglers would be there too. The train ride took nearly 7 hours. Once on the train I booked my hotel over the internet near the train station. I arrived just after 2pm and went to buy my ticket for tonight's show.
Once sorted I was off to find my hotel which took a while. Nice little hotel opposite the train station, a small room with TV and a little desk but clean and cosy. I didn't stay long as I wanted to make my way to the venue. I was advised by the tourist centre and the nice guy at my hotel, that taking the tram to the venue would be the best idea. Great to discover I only had to travel for 10 minutes but to walk took me 15 minutes as the venue was in the middle of a park which wasn't visible from the road. I finally managed to find it and it had a lovely feeling. Fans were already waiting at the doors, walking round the venue or sitting in a nearby cafe awaiting Brian's only gig in Germany. For some reason it hadn't been very well advertised, so fans wouldn't have had time to travel to Leipzig and it was also on a Monday. I was happy I'd got three days off work otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see Brian at all, not even in Zurich.
The weather was fine but it had started to become cloudy and windy with an outlook of maybe rain which would be bad because it was an open air gig and I didn't want to get wet. Once the doors opened I ran to the front and couldn't believe it, I was first in the front row. Right in front of Brian Setzer. Brilliant I thought, it couldn't be better. This was the second time this had happened to me, so someone wants me to get this place. Maybe somebody 'above' was looking out for me. Anyway, the clouds went away and the sun came out. The place in front of the stage was well thought out as everyone behind me stood higher than the one in front. This way no one would be able to push you into the gates but also everyone was able to see the band clearly. Right on time the show started and I was pleased to see Miss Mary Ann & The Ragtime Wranglers were on again. That was the support band I loved so much in Zurich. They played the same set which didn't bother me as I could listen to them every day. Now I was able to sing along with their songs and would have loved it if they'd played a bit longer. They delivered a great show and looked great on stage. I have no idea when I'll see them again as I hardly ever travel to the Netherlands but you never know. I'd really love to see them again.
After maybe 45 minutes the stage was cleared and made ready for Brian Setzer. He walked on stage in his black & white striped suit looking as smart as always. He has a great taste for unusual outfits, especially suits. Once when he was playing in Switzerland in the mid 80's he used to wear a green looking suit. That was the most awesome outfit I've ever seen. I've still got a picture taken from that performance.
Back now to the gig in Leipzig. Brian was in fine form and playing better than ever. He IS the guitar and Rockabilly god of many generations and I watched some of the faces of the very young fans who weren't even born when Brian became famous in the late 70's with his first Stray Cats hits such as 'Sexy & 17' and 'Rock This Town'. Their set was a bit different from the night before, but I can't say which songs he changed as I wasn't able to write anything down. Therefore, I hope you'll forgive me if I can't mention all the classic tracks he played with his band at both gigs. But he definitely rocked the place with the helping hands of his musicians. Watching Brian, he was awesome. His voice had grown even more gruff over the years but I enjoyed it that way. He's a man who has created his own Rockabilly style starting with the Stray Cats over to his Brian Setzer Orchestra and now on tour with his Rockabilly Riots. Such an amazing personality and musician. He never stayed still on stage, moving around and introducing his band mates, interacting with them, and giving the fans everything they wanted to see. It was a powerful show all the way through and I wished it would never end. Especially as I didn't know how many years it would be before I saw him again.
Before he hit the last note I decided to leave the gig to buy a shirt from the merchandise store but even more, I wanted to talk to him again. I could see him outside, jumping about and singing after the gig. But even though I shouted him I wasn't able to catch him so I've no idea if he heard or saw me as it was very dark. I was a little bit sad when the tour bus left and tried to wave to him even though I couldn't see him behind the dark windows. Well, it was still the best thing I've done and I'm hoping to meet him again whenever that will be. These two gigs were the best ever and I'm glad I spent the money to go to both of them as I'll never forget them.